I seem to have internalised messages of oppression and subjugation rather than those of privilege and entitlement. I vividly remember parking up at work in tears and wondering why I didn’t feel I could step into my power. Pondering on how I felt alliance with women of colour, women who wrote from minoritized groups – that as a white, cis, heterosexual and middle-class woman I didn’t feel like I belonged; had never belonged. That I felt unease and discomfort – talked over and ignored. I just didn’t have the energy and where with all to make a fuss and shake the status quo. I felt out of place, excluded and was curious even as I wept.
Reading Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Sarah Ahmed, Bernardine Evaristo I noticed how their observations, anger, insights, knowledge resonate a great deal. What is going on? What can I do with it?
Now I am able to make choices, not worry too much about institutional reputation, free-range in the knowledge landscape and find a way of making a difference and addressing injustice.
Doesn’t that sound exciting?
It should but instead I am finding myself feeling drained and fatigued. Physical responses to fear and anxiety about who am I to make claims about insights? How dare I? These are the experiences I had when I was undertaking my PhD back in the late 1990’s. I experienced depression and was unwell for quite a while because I could not find the energy and belief that was required to write up my research. What has compounded the issue for me is that NOBODY within academia bothered to help me. Instead, I found myself helping others, accelerating their completion, and then being terminated without warning.
I am still wounded by that experience and the legacy of that negligence and neglect hangs about 20 yrs later. I now can write what I want and explore the issues I see as mattering. I am not constrained or restrained by rules or regulations as to what warrants a worthwhile project. I can quite literally “please myself” BUT the internalised messages from the past are inhibiting and hindering my wish to flourish and make a fuss. I want to stir things up – rattle cages and challenge received wisdom.
The physical effects of this are tricky – powering down, feeling tired and unworthy are all warning signs that I am wary about in relation to my well-being. Thing is I have allowed other people’s stuff, other people’s reaction to my insights to STOP me doing the things that matter to me.
I also think I have a processing issue about finishing things – that I have real difficulties in organising and completing things – holding the bigger picture in my mind without getting overwhelmed. The overwhelm leads to avoidance and distraction. I then feel cluttered and unfocussed. It is exhausting and I want to find a solution to this by limiting my gaze, taking bite size approaches and see it as the big project as incremental steps. I KNOW that this is the way to work and that I will then have less overwhelm. I can go for walks, do the gardening and get distracted if I set myself goals in a way that feels different to the experiences and habits that were a result of my difficulties in academia. I wrote my MSc up at work – I was motivated and energised sitting at my work desk. It felt important, purposeful, and meaningful writing it up within the context of the research (professional practice). I don’t have that now – I spend too long on my own and isolated from the projects, politics and people that help me focus on what matters. I need to find a way of connecting and asking for help. I am not very good asking for help and connecting with people. It is a legacy of a long time ago when I internalised the necessity of not making a fuss, getting on with it and self-sufficiency.